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Once there was a boy. . . . Who listened to an old man.  And, thus, he
began to learn about The Precious Present.  “It is a present because
it is a gift,” the contented man explained.  “And it is precious
because anyone who receives such a present is happy forever.”
“Wow!” the little boy exclaimed.  “I hope someone give me The Precious
Present.  Maybe I’ll get it for Christmas.”  The boy ran off to play.
And the old man smiled.  He liked to watch the little boy play.  He
saw the smile on the youngster’s face and heard him laughing as he
swung from a nearby tree.  The boy was happy.  And it was a joy to

The old man also liked to watch the boy work.  He even rose early on
Saturday mornings to watch the little laborer mow the lawn across the
street.  The boy actually whistled while he worked.  The little child
was happy no matter what he was doing.  It was, indeed, a joy to

When he thought about what the old man had said, the boy thought he
understood.  He knew about presents.  Like the bicycle he got for his
birthday and the gifts he found under the tree on Christmas morning.
But as the boy thought more about it, he knew.  The joy of toys never
lasts forever.

The boy began to feel uneasy.  “What then,” he wondered, “is The
Precious Present?  What could possibly make me happy forever?”  He
found it difficult to even imagine the answer.  And so he returned to
ask the old man.

The parable of
The Precious
Present is a quiet
one to muse upon
and sit with, and
finally to take
into your heart.

“Is the Present a magical ring?  One that I might put on my finger and
make all my wishes come true?”

“No,” the old man said.   “The precious present has nothing to do with wishing.”

As the boy grew older he continued to wonder.  He went to the old man.
“Is the Precious Present a flying carpet?” he inquired.  “One that I
could get on and go any place that I like?”

“No,” the man quietly replied.   “When you have the precious present,
you will be perfectly content to be where you are.”

The boy was becoming a young man now, and felt a bit foolish for
asking. But he was uncomfortable. He began to see that he was not
achieving what he wanted. “Is the Precious Present,” he slowly
ventured, “a sunken treasure? Perhaps rare gold coins buried by
pirates long ago?”

“No, young man,” the old man told him. “It is not.  The richness is
rare, indeed, but the wealth of the Present comes only from itself.”

The young man thought for a moment. Then he became annoyed. “You told
me,” the young man said, “that anyone who receives such a present
would be happy forever. I never got such a gift as a child.”

“I’m afraid you don’t understand,” the old man responded.  “You
already know what the Precious Present is.  You already know where to
find it.  And you already know how it can make you happy.  You knew it
best when you were a small child.  You simply have forgotten.”

The young man went away to think. But as time passed, he became
frustrated, and finally angry. He eventually confronted the old man.
“If you want me to be happy,” the young man shouted, “why don’t you
just tell me what the Precious Present is?”

“And where to find it?” the old man volleyed.

“Yes, exactly,” the young man demanded.

“I would like to,” the old man began. “But I do not have such power.
No one does.  Only you have the power to make yourself happy.  Only
you.  The Precious Present isn’t something that someone gives you.
It’s a gift that you give yourself.”

The young man was confused, but determined. He resolved to find the
Precious Present himself. And so he packed his bags. He left where he
was. And went elsewhere. To look for the Precious Present.

After many frustrating years, the man grew tired of looking for the
Precious Present. He had read all the latest books. And he had looked
in The Wall Street Journal. He had looked into the mirror. And into
the faces of other people. He had wanted so much to find the Precious
Present. He had gone to extraordinary lengths. He had looked for it at
the tops of mountains and in cold dark caves. He had searched for it
in dense, humid jungles. And underneath the seas. But it was all to no
avail. His stressful search had exhausted him. He even became ill
occasionally. But he did not know why.

The man returned wearily to the old man’s side. The old man was happy
to see him. They often laughed out loud together. The young man liked
to be with the old man. He felt happy in his presence. He guessed that
this was because the old man felt happy with himself. It wasn’t that
the old man’s life was so trouble-free. He didn’t appear to have a lot
of money. He seemed to be alone most of the time. In fact, there was
no apparent reason why he was so much happier and healthier than most
people were. But happy he was. And so were those who spent time with
him. “Why does it feel so good to be with him?” the young man
wondered. “Why?” He left wondering.

After many years, the once-young man returned to inquire further. He
was now very unhappy and often ill. He needed to talk with the old
man. But the old man had grown very, very old. And, all too soon, he
spoke no more. The wise voice could no longer be heard.

The man was alone. At first, he was saddened by the loss of his old
friend. And then he became frightened. Very frightened. He was afraid
that he would never learn how to be happy. Until  finally he accepted
what had always been true. He was the only one who could find his own
happiness. The unhappy man recalled what the happy old man had told
him so many years ago. But as hard as he tried he could not figure it
out; he tried to understand what he had heard:

. .

The unhappy man was now tired of looking for the Precious Present. He
had grown so tired of trying that he simply stopped trying. And then,
it happened! He didn’t know why it happened when it happened. It
just…. Happened! He realized that the Precious Present was just that:
THE PRESENT. Not the past; and not the future, but THE PRECIOUS

In an instant the man was happy. He realized that he was in the
Precious Present. He raised both hands triumphantly into the cool,
fresh air. He was joyous–for one moment. But then, just as quickly as
he had discovered it, he let the joy of the present moment evaporate.
He slowly lowered his hands, touched his forehead, and frowned. The
man was unhappy–again.

“Why,” he asked himself, “didn’t I see the obvious long ago? Why have
I missed so many precious moments?” “Why has it taken me so long to
live in the present?” As the man remembered his fruitless travels
around the world in his search for the Precious Present, he knew how
much happiness he had lost.

He had not experienced what each special time and place had to offer.
He had missed a great deal. And he felt sad. The man continued to
berate himself. And then he saw what he was doing. He observed that he
was trapped by his guilt about his past.

When he became aware of his unhappiness and of his being in the past,
he returned to the present moment. And he was happy. But then the man
began to worry about the future. “Will I,” he asked, “be able to know
the joy of living in the Precious Present tomorrow?” Then he saw he
was living in the future and laughed–at himself.

He listened to what he now knew. And he heard the wisdom of his own
voice.  “It is wise for me to think about the past and to learn from
it, but it is not wise for me to be in the past, for that is how I
lose myself.

“It is also wise for me to think about the future, and to prepare for
my future, but it is not wise for me to be in the future, for that,
too, is how I lose myself.  I lose what is precious to me.”

It was so simple. And now he saw it. The present nourished him. But
the man knew it was not going to be easy. Learning to be in the
present was a process he was going to have to do over and over, again
and again, until it became a part of him. Now he knew why he had
enjoyed being with the old man.

The old man was totally present when he was with the younger man. The
old man was not thinking about something else or wishing that he was
somewhere else. He was fully present. And it felt good to be with such
a person. The younger man smiled at himself, the way the old man used
to smile. He knew. “I can choose to be happy now, or I can try to be
happy when. . . or if. . . .”

The man chose NOW! And now the man was happy. He felt at peace with
himself. He agreed to savor each moment in his life…. The apparently
good and the apparently bad…. Even if he didn’t understand. For the
first time in his life, it didn’t matter. He accepted each of his
precious moments on this planet as a gift.

“I know that some people choose to receive the Precious Present when
they are young, others in middle age, and some when they are old.
Some people, sadly, never do.  I can choose to receive the Precious
Present whenever I want.”

As the man sat thinking, he felt fortunate. He was whom he was where
he was. And now he knew! He would always be whom he was where he was.

He listened again to his thoughts. “The present is what it is.  It is
valuable.  Even I do not know why.  It is already just the way it is
supposed to be.  When I see the present, accept the present, and
experience the present, I am well, and I am happy.  Pain is simply the
difference between what is and what I want it to be.

“When I feel guilty over my imperfect past, or I am anxious over my
unknown future, I do not live in the present.  I experience pain.  I
make myself ill.  And I am unhappy.

“My past was the present.  And my future will be the present.  The
present moment is the only reality I ever experience.

“As long as I continue to stay in the present, I am happy forever,
because forever is always the present.

“The present is simply who I am, just the way I am, right now.  And it
is precious.  I am precious.  I am the Precious Present.”

It was as though he could hear the old man talking. And then he
smiled. And his smile widened. And he laughed. He felt great joy. He
knew he was listening, not to the old man…. But to himself.

It felt good for him to be with himself–just the way he was. He felt
he knew enough. He felt he had enough. He felt he was enough. Now.

He had finally found the Precious Present. And he was completely happy.

Several decades later, the man had grown into a happy, prosperous, and
healthy old man. One day a little girl came by to talk to him. She
liked to listen to “the old man,” as she called him. It was fun to be
with him. There was something special about him. But she didn’t know
what it was.

One day, the little girl began to really listen to the old man.
Somehow she sensed something important in his calm voice. He seemed
very happy. The little girl couldn’t understand why. “How could
someone so old,” she wondered, “be so happy?” She asked and the old
man told her why.

Then all of a sudden, the little girl jumped up and squealed with
delight! As the girl ran off to play, the old man smiled. For he heard
what she had said:  “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I hope someday someone
gives me the Precious Present!”

Note: not the perfect present


I’m glad to know you’re going to be okay; I’m even gladder that you’re wise and mature enough to know you’re okay.

[Context, for future Christine and future Sisi: Tonight at 8:48PM Sisi called me, crying because she had been in a fight with Mike because he had blocked her close friends on facebook and because everything was becoming overwhelming for her. It was a good 20 minute call, reminiscent of the time I had called her, crying, after wanting to run away from home.]

I’m here for you when you need me.

I totally don’t feel the way I felt when I wrote the Thanksgiving post anymore. So please forgive me if it makes you upset in any way. Although I typed what I felt were true, and like I said to you tonight, they have to get dealt with eventually, in the long-run, I think we’ll be fine.

Don’t you know you are my very best friend?


Week One: Training at Chientan

This is Brian. The first week at Chientan Youth Activity Center (the place all 350+ of us teen volunteers were jailed in for teaching workshops and training) he was my mini-crush. He wasn’t in my group (A2-6) as he’s going to be a college sophomore at UCDavis and would be teaching middle schoolers (so he was in C) or at my eating tables, so I never really saw him or talked to him. Later during the fourth week tour, I’d see him holding hands with Delia, this girl from his CA H.S. who’s going to college at NTU. Oh well.

If you didn’t understand any of that, it’s ok. I don’t really remember the first week, and I don’t need to. The food wasn’t great, the workshops were boring (maybe I would have learned something if I paid more attention–been inspired or something–but I was busy writing letters. to YOU. ONE DAY WHEN WE’RE OLD you better still have my letters. I want to see the pretty stamps! I want to see the 5-6 pages I wrote to you!) and I hadn’t really made friends yet.

Weeks 2-3: Teaching at Ba-Li Elementary School

This is where we lived and the Zhuo family that took care of us:

Since our house was a ten minute walk from the school, the lady next to me in pink would walk us to school at 8 every morning. we’d eat breakfast, my favorite being 蛋饼. class would start at 8:45 and i’d teach the lowest level class with eric and kamala (and elly would watch from the back)

the first week we realized the kids knew their ABCs but didn’t know phonics. since we only had 2 weeks, we just taught them vocabulary. we made ice cream by rolling the mixture in cans (“ice cream!” “booooowl” “spooooon”). we harvested rice and the media came to film us. we used spongebob a lot. we taught them ninja and they caught on quick. but then by the second week we were dead tired and kept snapping at the kids and not making lesson plans–just going with the flow. it was horrible because we had favorites and made it obvious. my favorite was eric (gray shirt on the zebra) and then jacob (in front of the zebra)

anyway. i was super proud of my kids’ performance at the closing ceremony; they sang/danced to jackson 5’s ABC and danced sorry sorry

Week 4: Tour

We did cool stuff like zipline/tightrope walk/rockclimb. We did dumb things like hike in the rain for hours. We went to a bunch of museums and slept during the 3D movies in the museums. I snuck out to the night market with some girls. I watched a bunch of movies. I love bargaining. I fell for this nerd: Raymond Liu.

oh. so i got back 10PM NYC time on 8/1. yet i haven’t slept yet because i was talking to him since 3AM


When i was much younger, i wrote and illustrated a story about a plain
brown bird. I wish i could find it.

The brown bird found a magic seed and got three wishes.
It wanted to be like a frog
instead of the bubble thing frogs/toads get
he ended up getting a wattle instead of ribbiting,
he lost his singing voice and could only cockadoodledoo.
It wanted to be like a peacock
instead of having pretty tail feathers
he got tail feathers that prevented him from flying again.

Once upon a time, there was a farm. On one of the wide open plains of the farm, bordered by the tall trees of a nearby forest, sat a house of chickens. One bright, sunny, cloudless day, the lawn in from of the house was filled with fluffy brown hens. Happily clamoring away, pecking at the green grass below, not a single hen cared that their wings wouldn’t reach the open blue skies. In an instant, everything stopped. With a loud screech, the rooster stepped up onto the platform of an elevated tree stump. Each and every hen rushed with frantic fervor to climb back into the house. Those that couldn’t penetrate the chaotic ruffle of feathers by the door squeezed themselves into the haven of shade underneath the house. The rooster stood alone outside on the tree stump, continuing his steady rhythm of screeching alarm. Up above on the tree tops of the nearby forest, there perched a hawk in predatory wait. Surveying the field below, he saw all his prey hen vanish into places he could not touch. All that was left in plain sight was a red-headed rooster, uttering an incessant annoyance – a sight so unappetizing, all the hawk could do was leave his perch and fly away.

This is a true story.